The Tweet that Upset the Governor

The+Tweet+that+Upset+the+Governor

UPDATE: “The Harbinger” uploaded this clip of Kathy Cook, an East student’s parent and executive director of Kansas Families for Education, speaking about the Twitter incident at the SMSD Board Meeting.

Kathy Cook Speaks at the SMSD Board Meeting Regarding Emma Sullivan by SMEHarbinger

When Emma Sullivan, senior at Shawnee Mission East, tweeted about Gov.  Sam Brownback, she probably thought it would be just like any other tweet, going out to her then 63 followers.

Emma Sullivan tweets Twitter at Governor Sam Brownback

“Just made mean comments at gov. brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot,” tweeted the vocal Sullivan (@emmakate988) while on a field trip at Gov. Brownback’s office.

At the time, she was on a field trip with her Youth in Government group, visiting the capitol in Topeka.

“My friend Ryan [McNeil], who was on the trip with me, was talking about his [Brownback’s] policies. He and I were talking about things with which we disagreed with him [Brownback],” Sullivan said.

During a question and answer session, Sullivan found the questions being asked by her school group to be not about politics, but rather Brownback’s position in government.

“People were asking questions like ‘What’s your favorite part of being governor?’ or ‘Is it cool?,” Sullivan said.

“It would be out there for me to ask ‘Why did you privatize the arts commission?’” Sullivan said.

Feeling like she didn’t have a voice, she tweeted.

“It was frustrating because I knew I couldn’t raise my hand and say anything. So I took out what I knew – Twitter,” Sullivan said.

According to Sullivan, Brownback’s office contacted the district and East hinting that she needed to apologize for her tweet on Tuesday, the day after the tweet was made. The emails between Brownback’s office and Dr. Krawitz, Shawnee Mission East’s principal, can be found here.

Her appointment to the school office was near immediate after the email.

“They didn’t waste any time before calling me to the office,” Sullivan said.

“[My principal] was really mad. He’s an intimidating man. I respect him, though. But I was disappointed in the way he handled it,” Sullivan said.

“Right off the bat he was yelling at me, saying that it was embarrassing to East and the district. He was concerned they were going to cancel the Youth in Government program and that I would have to do damage control,” Sullivan said.

Even after her meeting with her prinicipal, she felt it unnecessary to apologize.

“If they [East] were to say anything to me, which I still don’t even see why they needed to, he [the principal] could’ve just said I need to watch what I say on Twitter,” Sullivan said.

“Because I am so politically opinionated, I knew to say ‘Well, that’s my first amendment right’,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan didn’t want to write the letter to Brownback, because she felt it was insincere.

“It wasn’t fair to make me write an apology letter to someone I wasn’t actually sorry to,” Sullivan said.

According to Sullivan, her principal and Brownback didn’t think she would resist.

“I don’t think they thought I would fight this,” Sullivan said.

The only thing Sullivan feared was how colleges would look upon this tweeting incident. She was afraid it would reflect poorly upon her, but quite the opposite occurred.

“It looks really good, because I can say I’ve done something. [A collge would pick] the one person who was all over the news for speaking her rights and actually making a difference,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan has already received emails from Yale and Duke admissions.

Still, some question the respect she might’ve given to an elected official.

“People keep asking me if I regret my wording. If I would’ve gotten on Twitter and been like, ‘This is how I disagree with his [Brownback’s] policies,’ my friends wouldn’t care,” Sullivan said.

“If I were writing for the people, it would be a different story. I could’ve gotten more constructive, but I was writing to an 18-year old boy standing next to me,” Sullivan said.

She questioned why the Brownback administration responded to her tweet.

“I think they need to check their priorities. Regardless of what he’ll say, I’m not going to vote for him in the reelection,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan’s tweet was just one of the many mentions on Twitter and Facebook that is routinely checked by Sherriene Jones-Sontag, Brownback’s communication director. Jones-Sontag said the tweet “wasn’t respectful”.

Despite the negative comments she received from Brownback’s office, Sullivan has many supporters, as proven by growing Twitter followers count, which is now over 13,000 people.

“I’m very proud of Mrs. Sullivan, and I think she represents students well. I’m very glad to see that students are willing to stand up for themselves as well as their constitutional rights,” Kathy Cook, parent of East student and Executive Director of Kansas Families for Education, said.

Sullivan decided to not apologize to Brownback, and has stuck with her decision.

“I don’t regret sending it at all.”

Words: Andy Gottschalk, Dylan Crow